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THE AMERICAN DISCOVERY OF ALCOHOLISM, 1933-1939
Redefining alcohol in post-Repeal America: Lessons from the short life of Everett Colby's Council for Moderation, 1934-1936
One of the first new voluntary organizations to attempt to define a new cultural stance toward alcohol suitable for the country's post-Repeal mood and its circumstance of re-legalized alcohol was the short-lived Council for Moderation (CFM), launched by Everett Colby (1875-1943) in late 1934 with financial support from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960). Colby's group is of interest for several reasons. First, it provides an example of an effort to promote moderationism as the goal of a voluntary organization in the immediate wake of Repeal. Colby began with a plan to launch a subliminal propaganda campaign funded by wealthy individuals and, when support was not forthcoming, turned to a would-be voluntary mass-participation organization, which also failed. Colby's enterprise illuminates some of the difficulties posed by promoting moderation: the difficulty in defining moderation satisfactorily, the difficulty in finding appropriate normative authority for moderation's advocacy and enforcement, and the difficulty in distinguishing between the advocacy of limitation of drinking (on the one hand) and the seeming approval of drinking, per se, on the other. Perhaps the most important difficulty of all was the objection of Dry interests to Colby's enterprise. Drys equated moderationism with the domestication or devilification of alcohol, and so both objected and withheld financial support. Given that Colby would not accept Wet support (for fear of being tarred with the brush of working for "the industry"), the failure of Colby's group to attract Dry or middle-of-the-road support spelled its doom.
The Colby story also provides an opportunity to examine in some detail John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s attitudes toward an alcohol-related initiative in the post-Repeal era. One of the remarkable consistencies of the story of alcohol in the post-Repeal period is that nearly every new initiative we will examine (Colby's, Jolliffe's in Chapter IV, the SCNCA's in Chapter V, the early RCPA's in Chapter VII) sought first to get funding from the Rockefeller establishment. And although none would succeed in achieving anything more than very modest support, the Rockefeller establishment nevertheless provided an important target that, in turn, helped define how new proposals should be shaped. In this sense--and even without contributing funds--the Rockefeller establishment's expectations, guidelines, and preferences had a subtle role in aiming new endeavors increasingly toward scientific research in alcohol--and so merit our examination.
In a broader sense, the history of the Colby group's failure provides a kind of cultural cipher for some of the fashions, values, and popular concerns that both defined the alcohol territory in this early-transitional period and imposed constraints on any push toward social change in regard to alcohol-related issues.
Everett Colby, the CFM's founder and driving force, was a lawyer by training, a former Republican New Jersey state senator (1906-1909), and the Progressive Party's candidate for that state's governorship in 1913. He served as a member of U.S. Food Administration during World War I under Herbert Hoover, and traveled to France in 1917 to assess the army's food supply ("Colby," 1945, p. 245). After a personal campaign for food conservation back in the United States, Colby (by now over 40) volunteered for service as a private in the army tank corps, subsequently earning a commission as major in 1918. After the war his interests in public affairs included the promotion of the League of Nations and the World Court. From 1934 to 1938 he was a member of New Jersey's Republican State Committee. Colby was also a long-time trustee of Brown University, from which in 1897 he had graduated. There, he had been a "noted football player" ("Colby," 1945, p. 245), captain of the varsity team, and, incidentally, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s college roommate and, thereafter, lifelong friend.
Unlike his friend John, who supported it, Colby had staunchly opposed the prohibition amendment's passage in 1919. With the coming of Repeal in 1933, however, Colby sensed the need for a new national consensus on alcohol, one neither Wet nor Dry but flowing from the premise that although alcohol's re-established legality implied that Americans were free to drink or not to drink as they chose, those who chose to drink were obliged to drink moderately, safely, and responsibly, in conformity with the new requirements of an increasingly fast-paced modern world.1 The key to reaching a new consensus, Colby believed, lay in a program of public education. Of course, educational and propaganda campaigns about alcohol were by no means new in 1934--the temperance movement had been making such efforts for a hundred years or more. Moreover, in the wake of Repeal many Dry organizations and leaders had lain prohibition's failure partly at the door of too little stress on public education. Many temperance interests, therefore, were calling for renewed and updated educationally-based attacks on the alcohol problem. But Colby sought to bring two new elements into the group's campaign: first, (as noted above) the campaign would not be anti-alcohol in focus but instead opposed to excessive alcohol use only and, second, all of the newly available propagandistic powers of new communications media--including radio and movies--as well as the newly emergent expertise of the field of public relations would be brought to bear on the problem. Public relations, advertising, and propagandistic efforts held a special fascination for the country in the 1930s, partly as a result of the emergence of radio as the national mass medium.
Colby attributed his own interest in formulating a new approach to alcohol to a number of sources. He had helped gather materials in Europe in connection with Albert Scott and Raymond Fosdick's research on Toward Liquor Control (1933), the Rockefeller-funded effort intended to light the country's pathway out of national prohibition. "As a result of that experience," Colby wrote in a draft CFM funds-appeal letter, "I became convinced that little of permanent value would be accomplished for moderation and temperance by means of legislation and that we must look to the more deliberate process of education..." (Colby to Donors, 6 Feb 35, RFA). Colby's letter quoted a key passage in Fosdick and Scott's (1933) chapter on education:It is possible that a new society for temperance, set up perhaps on a national basis and divorced from old groups and methods that have outlived their usefulness, might be of genuine service. Such an organization could focus specialized attention on the problem and could bring together behind intelligent programs men and women interested in the maintenance of a sober country, and determined that the legalized return of alcohol shall mark the beginning of real temperance (p. 144 in Fosdick and Scott, 1933).Like Fosdick and Scott, Colby feared the dismal prospect that America's ambivalent relationship to alcohol threatened an exhausting and futile succession of alternating Dry and Wet legislative periods. By the end of 1934, Dry advocates were already beginning to reap the rhetorical rewards of Repeal's passage, pillorying Wets with the accumulating failures of Repeal and the accumulating stock of unfulfilled pre-Repeal promises made by Wets. Repeal's first year of operation had been a disaster, Dry analysts proclaimed (see, for example, Holmes, 1934). This would be a Dry rhetorical strategy that gathered momentum over the first five years of Repeal. "In my judgment," Colby wrote to Rockefeller in mid-summer 1935,conditions are getting worse every day and if something is not done about it soon, we will have upon us another drive for prohibition which did not solve the liquor problem. On the other hand, we are face to face with the fact that the repeal of prohibition did not solve the liquor problem either. What other alternative have we, therefore, but to try to change the mental attitude of the people toward the use of liquor and thereby, over a long period of years, change social customs and personal habits (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Jul 35[a], p. 4, RFA).There can be little doubt that Colby's interest in the new movement also had an entrepreneurial side. Though he came from a prosperous family and was a partner in the Wall Street law firm of Barry, Wainwright, Thacher & Symmers, Colby's financial circumstances in this period were not untroubled. The years 1934-1936 were, of course, in the midst of the Great Depression. Colby's private correspondence with Rockefeller suggests that he derived little or no income from his law firm and was constantly pressed with financial obligations deriving from his various public affairs interests. Lamenting this circumstance to his friend, Rockefeller, in a long-hand letter written at Christmas-time 1935, Colby cited a typical example of his circumstance: "For instance, last Sunday I substituted for Prof. Shotwell and broadcasted over W.O.R. on the subject of 'embargoes' and 'sanctions' and it cost me fully twenty dollars with my stenographic work, car fare and driver in New York" (Colby to Rockefeller, 27 Dec 35[a], RFA).
The need to pen such passages to his long-time friend must surely have pained this proud and dignified man. At age 59 Colby may have had relatively few new employment prospects. With a distinguished career of public service behind him, he may have felt a strong need to define a self-supporting enterprise in the public domain that he himself could lead. Starting a popular movement was not entirely new territory for Colby. In 1905, when his anti-boss progressivism denied him the regular Republican nomination for the New Jersey state senate, Colby ran as an independent and carried an entire slate of likeminded independent candidates along with him. He formed the Republican League for Limited Franchises and Equal Taxation, which spawned Colby clubs around the state and which later became known as the "New Idea" movement ("Colby," 1945).
It is also clear from documentary evidence that Colby anticipated that the moderation movement would tap into rich sources of financial support. The struggle for Repeal, Colby knew, had only recently drawn very large political contributions from wealthy backers. Repeal support ers, moreover, had been fond of making the point that their campaign derived not only from a desire to see the country rid of prohibition's problems but also from a desire to initiate a new era of more genuinely practicable temperance. Once the diversions and impediments of prohibition were removed, this argument went, new efforts toward building a moderationist society could be undertaken. Such notions, of course, had served the useful rhetorical purpose of wrapping Repeal advocacy in a temperance banner, thus both rationalizing the pro-Repeal stance and tempting support from Dry-ish citizens whose distaste for prohibition's consequences might swing them to support Repeal. Colby mistakenly took this rhetoric seriously, and expected a ready flow of financial support to come from the Repeal supporters who had earlier voiced these sentiments.
Colby made a very gentle request for seed-money support from Rockefeller in a letter of 30 November 1934 (Colby to Rockefeller, 30 Nov 34, RFA). This document--the earliest we have concerning the Council for Moderation--announced the group's name and its intention to incorporate in the state of New York, briefly described the group's proposed program and Colby's plan for an impressive "Demon stration Dinner" that would expose the group's approach to wealthy potential backers. The request offered Rockefeller a three-month budget estimate, and provided a list of the group's newly elected officers: President, Mrs. Ruth G.K. Strawbridge; Vice President, Mr. Leonard V. Harrison; Secretary, Miss Elizabeth Laine; Chair of the Education Committee, William Nederehoed; Counsel, Mr. Belkap "of Raymond's [Fosdick's] firm"; and Colby himself as Executive Secretary. The firm of Mace and Gumb, publicists, had been retained "to raise money and to help organize and prepare the exhibits for the Demonstration Dinner." "Mr. Harrison and Miss Laine," Colby reminded Rockefeller, "are members of your Liquor Study Group but are both acting independent ly at the request of Mrs. Strawbridge and myself."
The matter of the group's name would prove to be some thing of a problem, and this sheds an interesting light on contemporary circumstances. The first proposed name was "The Temperance Education Committee, Inc." The word "temperance," in this case, was intended to convey the older moderationist rather than the more recent abstentionist meaning--an intention not missed by all audiences (see "Urging," 1935). Though this name's emphasis on education might resonate with the temperance movement's new stress on the educational approach, Colby soon recognized that the word "temperance" was fast becoming pass‚ and would do little to draw support from Wets or, more importantly, from the large sector of the citizenry that was neither Dry nor Wet and, by and large, was fed up with public debate over alcohol. By the beginning of February, therefore, the group had looked into renaming itself the "Moderation League--A Committee for Temperance Education," no doubt in this way trying to draw Wet and middle-of-the-road support with the idea of moderation while still attracting Dry support with the word "temperance." But on trying to file for incorporation in New York under that name Colby discovered that a by-now defunct anti-prohibition group had incorporated under "Moderation League" some years before. Ironic ally, Colby's small name-changing bow to fashionability risked his efforts being confused with a pre-Repeal Wet group that had only recently fought prohibition--first, by advocating the sale of light beer and later by working for outright repeal (see Kyvig, 1979, p. 54 and Gebhart, 1932). Few words in America's lexicon of alcohol-related terms and euphemisms had not already been rhetorically mined by one side or the other in the previous hundred-year Dry/Wet struggle for hearts, minds, and votes.
By March 1935 the group's letterhead bore the name, COUNCIL FOR MODERATION, with "A Committee for Temperance Education" in smaller letters on the second line. Sometime later new letterhead stock dropped the second line entirely, and with it any association with the word "temperance" in the group's official name. Ironically, both Rockefeller (Rockefeller to Ford, 21 Jan 36, RFA) and Colby in post mortem accounts of the group's demise stressed that the "moderation" name had been ill-chosen and was partly responsible for its failure to attract support. "The wets thought we were too dry and the drys thought we were too wet," wrote Colby in a New York Herald Tribune report. "The prohibitionists, mistakenly, thought that we were teaching people to drink," he continued, "while others thought we should openly advocate the drinking of wine and beer" ("Rockefeller's," 1936).
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was no stranger to the alcohol issue in 1934. By then he had been involved in and received appeals for financial support for alcohol-related programs for more than thirty years. He would continue to receive such requests well after the Council for Moderation's brief existence had come to an end. Rockefeller drew these attentions both because he was one of the biggest philanthropic games in town in the mid- to late-1930s--in an age when private foundations occupied much the position that the federal government occupies today with respect to the funding of social and research programs. Also, he was known to have supported a number of alcohol-related endeavors. Indeed, Rockefeller himself and his foundation's cautious philosophy of social action and philanthropy would have a deep and yet subtle influence on the shape of new approaches to alcohol problems in the period following Repeal. Rockefeller's reputation for interest in the topic often shaped the form given to proposals so they might enjoy the best possible prospects for Rockefeller support.
A lifelong abstainer like his father, Rockefeller had supported the Dry cause before national prohibition's passage. According to Kyvig (1979, p. 96), he contributed roughly $350,000 to the Anti-Saloon League between 1900 and 1919--though Fosdick's (1956) account suggests much less and Levine's (1985) account suggests over twice as much was actually given. Although Rockefeller was joined by several captains of U.S. industry in supporting prohibition, his fame and fortune exposed him to the criticism that he had simply bought the 18th Amendment for the country (see Fosdick, 1956, pp. 251-253). By the mid-1920s, however, Rockefeller was growing troubled by the rise of alcohol-related lawlessness and his commitment to prohibition was slackening. He directed the Rockefeller-supported Social Science Research Council (SSRC) to study objectively "the operation and result" of prohibition in the U.S. (Fosdick, 1956, p. 253), and the SSRC produced a mimeographed report in 1928 (SSRC, 1928). In mid-1932 Rockefeller switched horses and came out for Repeal, causing a great flurry of attention, angering Drys, and delighting Wets (see Levine, 1985 and Hacker, 1932). Rockefeller explained his change of heart in a famous letter to Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, published in the New York Times on 7 June 1932:When the Eighteenth Amendment was passed I earnestly hoped--with a host of advocates of temperance--that it would be generally supported by public opinion and thus the day be hastened when the value to society of men with minds and bodies free from the undermining effects of alcohol would be generally realized. That this had not been the result, but rather that drinking has generally increased; that the speakeasy has replaced the saloon, not only unit for unit, but probably two-fold if not three-fold; that a vast array of law breakers has been recruited and financed on a colossal scale; that many of our best citizens, piqued at what they regarded as an infringement of their private rights, have openly and unabashedly disregarded the Eighteenth Amendment; that as an inevitable result respect for all law had been greatly lessened; that crime has increased to an unprecedented degree--I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe (quoted in Kyvig, 1979, p. 152).As Repeal approached, Rockefeller also supported liquor-related research at the Institute of Public Administration at Columbia University, headed by Luther Gulick. The IPA's "Liquor Study Committee" produced two quite influential analyses of alcohol control policies. Raymond B. Fosdick and Albert L. Scott published Toward Liquor Control (1933) on the eve of Repeal. Author Fosdick was a long-time trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation and became its President 1936-1948. Three years later, Leonard V. Harrison and Elizabeth Laine published After Repeal (1936), a comparative study of emergent alcoholic beverage control structures in U.S. states. In the post-Repeal period the Rockefeller Foundation also provided modest support to alcohol-related proposals from Robert Fleming at Boston City Hospital (see Fleming, 1937), Norman Jolliffe at Bellevue Hospital ("Interview," 1991) and to the fledgling Alcoholics Anonymous organization.2
Despite his interest in the topic, both Rockefeller and the Rockefeller Foundation had long harbored a cautious reluctance with respect to both alcohol-related issues in particular and controversial social issues in general. The specific reluctance derived from the Rockefellers' personal and controversial relationship--briefly touched on already--with the temperance movement, prohibition, and Repeal. The general reluctance was rooted in a traumatic experience the then-infant Rockefeller Foundation had endured in 1914--namely, the Ludlow Massacre, an event which resulted in a congressional investigation of the Foundation and its connection with the Rockefeller family's business endeavors. Of course, even aside from these concerns, the Rockefeller establishment can probably be fairly characterized as conservative in its willingness to fund controversial or radical research or social programs--and perhaps particularly so during the decade of the Great Depression. This conservatism, it has been said, derived from a deeply-rooted "faith in the existing social order, no matter how 'dislocated' it might be" (Biebel, 1983, p. 9).
The Ludlow Massacre left a lasting imprint on both Rockefeller's and the Foundation's grant policy. In 1914, iron mine and steel mill workers at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, in which John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was the largest owner, struck for "union recognition, an eight-hour day, and emancipation from the choking economic, political, and social control of the company over the Ludlow miners and their families..." (Brown, 1980, pp. 169-170). On April 20th state militia supplemented with company guards engaged in a day-long gun battle with strikers. At the battle's climax the militia overran the miners' tent colony, looting and setting fire to the tents. "Ten men and one child were killed in the shooting. The following day, two women and eleven children who had sought refuge from the gunfire in a room dug under one of the tents, were found dead of suffocation; the burning tents over their heads had denied them oxygen" (Gitelman, 1988, p. 18). As Brown noted, the bloody eventshocked an already aroused public and focused anger against the Rockefellers. Labor unions, anarchists, socialists, and radicals organized demonstrations and demanded broad reforms to protect labor. Progressives joined the cry for action, and even conservative newspapers criticized the mining company....Congress created, and President Wilson appointed, the Commission on Industrial Relations to investigate the Ludlow affair, relations between capital and labor, and the role of philanthropic foundations in general (Brown, p. 170).John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was called to give testimony before the commission. The Ludlow affair led, both direct ly and indirectly, to several specific consequences for the Rockefeller Foundation's funding policies. Thenceforth, foundation-supported research would be carried out by out side agencies save for projects in "a narrow range of noncontroversial subjects, notably public health, medicine, and agriculture" (Fosdick, 1952, p. 27). "In no other way," explained Fosdick, "could the objectivity of research be established beyond cavil and the projects freed from suspicion of ulterior interest" (Fosdick, 1952, pp. 27-28).
The handling of controversial social issues had been of particular concern for the Rockefeller establishment's Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM). The LSRM had been founded by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in 1918 in memory of his wife, "with an endowment of $74,000,000 for general philanthropic services, especially to women and children" ("Rockefeller," 1962, p. 3). John D. Rockefeller, Jr. served as the LSRM's president from its start to its absorption into the Rockefeller Foundation in January, 1929. In 1923, the LSRM elected to make social science research its chief preoccupation, under the guidance of activist director Beardsley Ruml, a man in his late twenties formerly associated with the then-President of the Carnegie Corporation, James R. Angell (Fosdick, 1952, p. 194). This focus re-awakened old fears among Rockefeller Foundation trustees, who in turn asked the LSRM Executive Committee to review their grant-awarding policies with four trusted advisors--Drs. George E. Vincent, Wickliffe Rose, Wallace Buttrick, and Abraham Flexner. The result of this review was placed in a memorandum on the handling of controversial projects comprising a dozen administrative guidelines for future use, half phrased negatively and half phrased positively. These were reproduced in Fosdick's The Story of the Rockefeller Foundation(1952, p. 201):
Guidelines Stated Negatively:
- N1. Not to contribute to organizations whose purposes and activities are centered largely in the procurement of legislation.
- N2. Not to attempt directly under the Memorial [i.e., the LSRM] to secure any social, economic, or political reform.
- N3. Not to contribute more than a conservative proportion toward the current expense of organizations engaged in direct activity for social welfare.
- N4. Not to carry on investigations and research directly under the Memorial, except for the guidance of the Memorial.
- N5. Not to attempt to influence the findings or conclusions of research and investigations through the designation of either personnel, specific problems to be attacked, or methods of inquiry to be adopted; or through indirect influence in giving inadequate assurances of continuity of support.
- N6. Not to concentrate too narrowly on particular research institutions, incurring thereby the danger of institutional bias.Guidelines Stated Positively:
- P1. To offer fellowships to students of competence and maturity for study and research under the supervision of responsible educational and scientific institutions.
- P2. To contribute to agencies which may advance in indirect ways scientific activity in the social field.
- P3. To make possible the publication of scientific investigations sponsored by responsible institutions or organizations through general appropriations to be administered in detail by the sponsoring agency.
- P4. To contribute toward the expenses of conferences of scientific men for scientific purposes.
- P5. To make possible under the auspices of scientific institutions, governmental agencies or voluntary organizations, demonstrations which may serve to test, to illustrate or to lead to more general adoption of measures of a social, economic or governmental char acter which have been devised, studied and recommended by responsible agencies.
- P6. To support scientific research on social, economic and governmental questions when responsible educational or scientific institutions initiate the request, sponsor the research and assume responsiblity for the selec tion and competence of the staff and the scientific spirit of the investigations.These guidelines no doubt provided a continuing basis for Foundation activities in both social science and controversial areas for many years thereafter (Fosdick, 1952, p. 200), and their themes would be easily detectable in John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s relations with Everett Colby's Council for Moderation and in his reactions to subsequent alcohol-related proposals. The negatively worded guidelines, in particular, exerted a strong influence. N1's proscription against proposals seeking "legislative action" could be invoked to deny support to Dry hopes for a renewed prohibition drive. N2's proscription against "social, economic, or political reform" further guaranteed a low profile for Rockefeller-supported social endeavors. N3's proscription against becoming a majority supporter of any endeavor was designed to insure that neither in public perception nor in reality would the Rockefeller Foundation singlehandedly engineer social programs that served selfish interests (of all the guidelines, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. probably heeded this one the most religiously). N4, N5, and N6 similarly were designed to protect Foundation-supported projects from charges of self-interested bias or ingrown idiosyncrasy.
The positively-worded guidelines confined Rockefeller involvement in controversial social territories to scholar ly and scientific paths. P1's offer of fellowships, P2's encouragement of "indirect ways" to advance scientific activity in problematic areas, P3's proffered underwriting of scientific publication, P4's encouragement of scientific conferences, P5's preference for small-scale, experimental, demonstration projects, and P6's preference for project proposals initiated outside the Rockefeller establishment by "responsible educational or scientific institutions"--all tended to shield the Rockefeller establishment from both the fact and the appearance of self-interest, bias, and selfish social engineering. Disinterested scientific and scholarly examination, then, provided the best possible device for involvement in social issues without at the same time tarnishing the Foundation's public image. (This would be a formula the modern alcoholism movement would also soon discover.)
As noted above, Colby's early plans for the CFM involved the preparation and staging of a demonstration dinner at which a select group of rich potential contributors would be exposed to the group's various media enterprises and proposals. Thereafter, Colby hoped, money would come in from other supporters and even from the group's own media productions. But money troubles would dog the CFM from the outset. The dinner, Colby informed Rockefeller (Colby to Rockefeller, 30 Nov 34, RFA), required an initial, three-month budget of $15,000. Rockefeller's response came a month later, in a letter pledging $3,000 (Rockefeller to Colby, 28 Dec 34, RFA). The letter's text contained three broad conditions for the commitment: that he (Rockefeller) would not be "seen as responsible in any way for this new movement," that he would not be its sole or primary source of support, and that his support for the moment concerned the project's experimental stage only. Rockefeller's first $1,000 installment on this pledge followed soon thereafter, allowing Colby to commence his dinner-demonstration endeavors. In Colby's letter acknowledging the first installment's arrival--addressed to Rockefeller's secretary, Robert E. Gumbel--Colby wrote that he would not "call for another advance from Mr. Rockefeller until we have a like amount contributed from other sources" (Colby to Gumbel, 31 Jan 35, RFA).
A week later, the group drafted the initial form of a solicitation letter asking $1,000 apiece from a few rich potential donors to "organize the movement and prepare the educational material" (Colby to Donors, 6 Feb 35, p. 2, RFA) for the dinner event. When this effort failed to generate funds, Colby (following Rockefeller's advice) mailed appeals for $250 apiece to 500 or more potential donors. Perhaps sure of the success of this latest effort, Colby called for another $500 of Rockefeller's $3,000 pledge on 19 February 1935. After another month of little or no money coming in, Colby wrote Gumbel in an upbeat tone that the group was "now ready for the balance of Mr. Rockefeller's subscription to the Council for Moderation and I should be glad to receive it at your convenience" (Colby to Gumbel, 18 Mar 35, RFA). There was no mention of matching funds, and Colby was no doubt straining under the obligation to pull together his demonstration dinner with precious few resources and dwindling prospects before the great event was actually staged.
The substance of Colby's proposed enterprise was to infuse alcohol education with a moderation theme and to fully exploit the new techniques of persuasion and propaganda available in the 1930s, the new mass media and the newly emerging field of public relations. An important part of the group's plan was to create moderationist educational messages that would not necessarily be recognizable as such by the public. For example a moderationist theme might be folded into a movie or radio drama plot so subtly and deftly that only the productions' makers would know its underlying suasional objective. This aspect of Colby's plan was elitist and involved a certain amount of subterfuge. The more the public was to be unaware of the true intent of the movement's media productions the less that movement could reasonably pitch membership appeals to a wide sector of the population. Originally, Colby had wished to attract "as little attention as possible" (Colby to Rockefeller, 30 Nov 34, p. 1, RFA) to the Council's early fund-raising activities. Also, this was a plan that would require considerable up-front expenditure for the development of exemplary stories and materials.
The flavor of the group's suasional endeavors is suggested in Colby's description of an animated movie--still a relatively new cinematic form in 1935--being developed for public schools and lovingly described in a letter to Rockefeller:It is a story of bee life. The king and queen bee offer their lovely daughter to the young man who brings to the royal storehouse the largest amount of honey. It is a great contest. As the bees bring in their honey, their names and deposits are marked on a score board. The hero is, of course, doing great work and his score is mounting rapidly. Then the villain enters, wrapping his right wing across his left shoulder for all the world like a regular stage crook. He decides to destroy the hero by making him drunk while he remains on the job carting honey to the royal coffers. They meet in a bee night club and the villain offers to treat the hero to a cocktail but when he lifts his glass, the villain throws the drink over his shoulder and remains sober throughout the evening while the unfortunate hero becomes tipsy and finally tight as a drum (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Feb 35, pp. 1-2, RFA).In due course the hero bee gets good counsel from a wise grasshopper, stops tippling, returns to the contest with all his wits and energies about him, and in the end wins the princess.
The subliminality of the moderationist message, in Colby's conception, was the approach's chief virtue. "The lesson is as clear as a pike staff," he wrote of the animated movie to Rockefeller, "but is brought into the picture so skillfully and so subtly that no one would guess it to be temperance propaganda" (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Feb 35, p. 2, RFA). If this sort of film were to play commercially, the picture must be "so well taken and so interesting" that it would stand on its own artistic feet and, of course, contain "no hint of preaching or exhortation" (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Feb 35, p. 2, RFA). If the audience did not recognize the enterprise as a moderationist tract then it would not reject its message without even listening to it. In this way, the Council for Moderation's plan might avoid the pall that hung over the alcohol issue in contemporary public opinion.
Colby's dinner was initially planned for New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on 10 April 1935. According to Colby's original blueprint (glowingly described in a draft solicitation letter of 6 February 1935), "guests will be shown an actual demonstration of how the most modern methods of molding public opinion can be effectively and intelligently utilized" (Colby to Rockefeller, 30 Nov 34, p. 1, RFA). To emphasize the multi-media aspect of the program, "[i]nteresting motion pictures, an attractive radio broadcast, advertisements, posters, the work of prominent cartoonists and other educational features" would be presented, all, the letter continued, would be "teaching moderation and adaptable for general use thoughout the country" (Colby to Rockefeller, 30 Nov 34, p. 1, RFA). To emphasize the program's originality, the letter asserted that the event would be "a most unusual and unique program depicting an entirely new approach to the liquor problem" (Colby to Rockefeller, 30 Nov 34, p. 1, RFA).
With virtually no money coming in, and the dinner's date fast approaching, Colby tried to broaden the CFM's base of support and shift its action program accordingly. A March newspaper announcement of the Council's formation went so far as to assert that "the keystone of the whole enterprise will be popular membership" ("Temperance Group," 1935). This announcement also contained tell-tale signs that Colby was increasingly angling his group's character toward friend Rockefeller's tastes. Indicative of this tendency were the article's stress on confining the moderationist experiment to the New York metropolitan area at first, the movement's aversion to coercion ("nothing is going to be imposed on anybody by anybody"), and its eschewing of political action or legislative objectives. As if to provide balance, Rockefeller's name was also specifically distanced from the group. Colby had emphasized, the article noted, that "Mr. Rockefeller is not committed to any plan for the future and is only aiding financially in a small way" with many others providing support as well ("Temperance Group," 1935).
The great event actually took place on 2 May 1935, at the appointed site and was announced as a "public event" ("Plan," 1935). Though well attended by "about 250 well-known and representative people" (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Jul 35[b], p. 2, RFA), the event failed to generate any thing like the funds Colby had hoped for. A New York Times report of the event began with the remarkable assertion thatThe 'most thorough scientific and impartial investigation' ever undertaken on the effects of alcohol on the human system will be made by the Council for Moderation, an organization engaging in a ten-year campaign of education to develop an attitude of moderation in this country in the use of alcoholic beverages ("Drinking Curb," 1935).The remainder of the Times report focused primarily on the remarks of Mrs. John S. Sheppard, a member of the New York State Liquor Authority. Sheppard's talk to the gathering, as conveyed in the news report, contended that Dry and Wet lobbies in the state legislature had wreaked havoc on the state's legitimate efforts to provide sound liquor control. Wet lobbyists over-reacted to Dry lobbyists and Dry lobbyists over-reacted to Wet, with legislative measures being overly influenced by whichever side happened to be the more influential at the moment. "A hard fight was fought for repeal," Sheppard argued,but the real benefit it should bring this country will come only through the help of strong groups organized to protect the interests of all citizens against constant encroachments, through political pressure of liquor interests on one hand and total abstinence groups on the other ("Drinking Curb," 1935).Colby's own report to Rockefeller on the dinner (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Jul 35[b], RFA) noted the names of a great many influential guests who had come, sometimes from far-away places. In a more candid assessment Colby noted to Rockefeller that in the judgment of some the exhibits at the dinner had not been "as effectively presented as they could have been" (Colby to Rockefeller, 27 Jun 35, p. 1, RFA).
More than two months after the dinner's occurrence--having allowed fully enough time for contributions to arrive--Colby felt obliged to report to Rockefeller that only $3,200 in additional contributions had been received by the organization since its start--from seventeen contributors including Harry Harkness Flagler ($1,000--the largest gift), Edsel Ford ($200), and Lammot du Pont ($250). The total was perilously close to the $3,000 minimum that allowed Colby to affirm that Rockefeller's initial pledge had been fully matched. The organization's entire expenditures "up to and including the dinner" had come to about $7,500, implying an overall shortfall of roughly $1,300. The subject of unpaid obligations to a printer and to the public relations firm of Mace and Gumb occupied a number of letters shot back and forth in July, particularly dealing with a misunderstanding concerning whether Rockefeller had agreed to guarantee payment of Council of Moderation obligations. According to a Gumbel memo to John D. Rockefeller III, outstanding obligations totalled about $2,000. As if to acknowledge unspokenly his disappointment, Colby also reported to Rockefeller that a Mr. Lynn Farnol, "a publicity expert," had consented to make a survey of the Council's "set-up and report ways and means for conducting the campaign to the best advantage and to give us an estimate of the probable cost" (Colby to Rockefeller, 27 Jun 35, p. 2, RFA).
In a number of subsequent analyses Colby noted several reasons for the group's failure to raise funds. First, his anticipation of great contributions from persons and interests which formerly had supported Repeal had proved fanciful. "I have been both surprised and disappointed," he wrote to Rockefeller in late June 1935,in the lack of support from so many rich people who have made contributions of ten thousand dollars at a clip for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, claiming that they did so not because they wanted their liquor but because they wanted to promote true temperance. I find now that they have very little interest in a practical movement to bring about what they claimed to have been their goal (Colby to Rockefeller, 27 Jun 35, p. 2, RFA).The great scale of the Repeal effort and the political coffers it had recently swelled no doubt caused Colby to expect that even a small fraction of such support would keep his group running indefinitely. But the Great Depression had changed potential contributors' gift-giving priorities; "people are terribly hard up," Colby wrote to Rockefeller, "and feel it more important to feed the hungry and care for poor relations than give to a temperance campaign" (Colby to Rockefeller, 5 Dec 35, p. 2, RFA). Though the failure of the one-thousand-dollar, the two-hundred-fifty-dollar, and the demonstration dinner appeals for support had led the group to define itself more and more as a grass-roots organization needing widely-based popular support, Colby had elected not to try to support the group with a low membership fee or by an attempt to garner a large number of one-dollar subscriptions. This approach Colby had employed in long-past political campaigns, where he had learned it to be an expensive procedure that could break down of its own weight. Neither had Colby sought to pursue support through "money raising luncheons" or personal visits to businessmen because "business men respond as well to a short, clear letter as they do to a personal visit" (Colby to Rockefeller, 5 Dec 35, p. 2, RFA). Colby confided that even the Council's fund-raiser, Charles C. Bauer, "the best money-raiser I have ever known," failed to win a contribution from the DuPonts in Baltimore. Finally, Colby noted that the group had also been obliged at times to turn away offers of support from liquor interests:Of course, if we had accepted the many offers of financial assistance which we received from liquor dealers and wine merchants we would have been on easy street, but we felt it was much better to fail than be charged with having made a deal with the trade. In fact I am sure it would have ruined us (Colby to Rockefeller, 5 Dec 35, p. 2, RFA).
Two months after the demonstration dinner, Rockefeller expressed frank concern that Colby was tacitly beginning to see Rockefeller as the CFM's chief supporter and best prospect for the group's continued existence. Rockefeller had a sharp eye for nuance when it came to language that suggested such a drift in support assumptions. He had noted a passage in a 7 June 1935 letter from Colby:Don't attempt to see me until you get good and ready. When that time comes, I shall have a complete report for you on the status of the Council for Moderation, together with suggestions as to what we believe should and can be done.The thrust of the "complete report for you" and "what we believe" phrases in this text set off Rockefeller's internal alarm, for he noted to Colby that "when I read that sentence I wondered whether in your mind the success of the Council was dependent on what I might or might not do toward its support." Rockefeller again emphasized his reluctance to become the group's chief or sole supporter. He noted that his initial support was based on the belief "that there was a group of people with you who were going on with this enterprise and that I was being asked to take a financial interest in it only as one of a large group and on a purely minority basis" (Rockefeller to Colby, 3 Jul 35, p. 1, RFA). Rockefeller also noted that, in fact, hopes for contributions coming from a wider group of contributors had met with disappointment, and that Colby's tone was beginning to suggest that Rockefeller's continued support was necessary for the group's survival. This circumstance, Rockefeller noted, was untenable. Choosing between the organization's survival on Rockefeller funds alone or its discontinuance, he wrote, "[m]uch as I should dislike to be forced to the latter alternative, the former is not possible for me" (Rockefeller to Colby, 3 Jul 35, p. 2, RFA).
Burdened with embarrassing unpaid debts, with a demon stration dinner that had disappointed his fund-raising hopes, and, now, with an increasingly reluctant patron in Rockefeller, Colby nevertheless responded to his friend's concerns with a positive and optimistic request for fresh funds. In mid-July 1935 Colby sent both a detailed letter responding to Rockefeller's 3 July letter (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Jul 35[a], RFA) and an equally detailed report of the group's current condition and prospects (18 Jul 35[b], RFA). The first assured Rockefeller that the Council had from the start drawn support from a collection of supporters and that Colby had repeatedly stressed the need for broad-based support. Hopes for contributions had been "bitterly disappointed," Colby conceded, but this was partly due to the fact that potential contributors had been asked merely to support the demonstration dinner rather than the group's demonstrably effective operational program of temperance education. "Now," Colby confidently continued, "we have demonstrated to the satisfaction of experts that our idea is sound and that our campaign will produce extraordinarily helpful results. That is a different proposition" (Colby to Rockefeller, 18 Jul 35[a], p. 2, RFA).
Colby boldly asked Rockefeller and Edsel Ford to sign on for another one-year stint. The group's budget for this period would be $60,000. Rockefeller and Ford would contribute $15,000 each, to make up half the budget, and the remaining $30,000 would come from other contributors. Both Rockefeller and Ford, however, would begin with $5,000 contributions each, and the $10,000 remainder of their pledges would not be due until the organization had received the full $30,000 in other support. In this way, in effect, the initial Rockefeller/Ford investment of $10,000 would generate a 3-for-1 multiplying effect before additional Rockefeller/Ford funds would be expected. Eleven days later (Rockefeller to Colby, 29 Jul 35, RFA), and after a coincidental lunch with Edsel Ford, Rockefeller wrote that both had agreed to go along with Colby's proposal. Rockefeller was unclear, however, whether Colby's new proposed 12-month enterprise began on the first of August or on the first of December to come--this is an indirect indicator that Rockefeller had no real feel for the desperate financial straits Colby's organization was in. Colby promptly responded that the new period started immediately (Colby to Rockefeller, 1 Aug 35, RFA).
Now in August and September, reinfused with new support from Rockefeller and Ford, Colby's Council turned to the newspaper media to seek new members and financial support. A paid advertisement and a news release were prepared. The advertisement was placed in four papers--the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, the Newark Evening News, and the Bridgeport Post Telegram--in late September 1935. The news release was sent to "2,000 news papers, religious publications, editorial writers and representatives of various organizations" across the country (Bauer to Colby, 29 Nov 35, p. 1, RFA). The group's advertisement was a tastefully prepared seven-by-ten inch panel bearing the title, "Announcing the Council for Moderation" at the top and the Council's address at the bottom. The body of the ad was divided into three columns. The first offered a column of letterhead-style names of the Council's five officers and twenty-nine members of its National Advisory Board, at the bottom of which appeared the parenthetical note: "Now being formed, all forty-eight States to be represented." The body's second two columns held the ad's text. A coupon appeared thereunder, with space for the interested reader to write his name and address next to the assertion: "I believe in the purpose of the Council for Moderation and hereby enroll as a member--without any financial obligation. Please send free literature."
The ad's text began with questions embodying the Council's fundamental commitment to moderation in drinking:Do you believe that some people drink too much? That too much drinking is a social menace? That a clear head and a clear mind produce clear thinking? That moderation in living and drinking is better than excess?Next it identified the Council with these beliefs and describe it as "a new approach to an old problem!" Next the Council's "new" campaign against excessive drinking was distanced from the Wet/Dry axis of struggle. Then, the ad offered a series of modern rationales for moderation:But in this age of automobiles, airplanes and mechanical devices of all kinds, immoderate drinking often becomes a public menace. A man with a fogged head cannot think clearly at the wheel. A blurred brain, a clouded mind, a dull eye and a fool's grin are more dangerous in an automobile than a stick of dynamite in a child's hand. We believe in personal liberty--but personal liberty ends where public injury begins!The ad's text went on to suggest that a change in "the public mind" could be brought about by "suggestion." The text proposed "over a period of years to employ education and constant repetition of the idea of moderation to create an attitude of individual responsibility toward the use of liquor." The aim of such an effort, the ad attempted to clarify, was to combat excessive drinking "and not in behalf of drinking in any degree whatsoever." The Council sought to "enlist the cooperation of the American people, irrespective of race, color or creed" to this end "without resort to political or legislative action." An endorsement from Mr. Edsel B. Ford and Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was quoted. And, finally, the ad made reference to the coupon, stressing that membership cost nothing though the Council was financed by voluntary contributions.
The Council's news release--which, like the ad, was released in late September--began by covering the same themes the ad had. The ad's second half, however, broke new ground by offering an extended list of items that the group was not or would not do, all tendered as remarks from Colby: it would not seek prosecution for drunkards or intoxicated drivers; it would not "be occupied with attempts to reform the drunkard who has already become addicted to the use of alcohol"; it would not even attempt to define moderation in terms of acceptable limits for different beverages--this would be a matter for individuals to determine for themselves. Finally, Colby noted that the group's stance toward alcohol included the support of abstinence as "an entirely satisfactory way for many persons, individually, to solve the liquor problem," though "[e]fforts to enforce abstinence by law...always have and always will defeat their own ends."
The news release resulted in "300 editorial comments...of which only 8" were "of a disapproving character" (Bauer to Colby, 29 Nov 35, p. 1, RFA). Moreover, the publication of the advertisement had been followed-up by a "circular letter" sent to roughly 7,500 persons, mainly "college and university presidents, presidents of insurance companies and county and city school superintendents." The result was that "75 college presidents, 55 insurance presidents, and 525 city and county school superintendents" had joined.
A second newspaper ad, published on 15 October 1935, followed much the same format as the first but stepped up the rhetorical energy level. Its title began in bold caps "LET'S TALK FRANKLY" and continued thereunder in italics "about Men who Drink too much!" This time the ad focused on the group's subject, moderate drinking, rather than the group itself, as in the September ad. "There are only a few unpardonable social errors," the text began, "and these are easily avoided. Drinking to excess heads the list." The ad continued:Without going into the moral aspects of this question, it is safe to assume that most people find an intoxicated man definitely offensive. No matter how well a man might "hold his liquor", there's always a tell-tale flaw in his bearing, speech or deportment that shouts to the world that some measure of his self-control is lost.The ad went on to condemn as bad taste both drunken ness and overindulgence, and closed with an affirmation of moderation in all things: "For moderation is the polite way of life, and it is the intelligent way." The coupon's size had been more than doubled.
These ads did seem to catch some eyes. By the end of November 1935 the group could claim roughly 4,000 members drawn from all forty-eight states. But the ads also caused dissension within the group. At least one Advisory Board member, Frank Presbry, was quoted in the New York Times as being "utterly disgusted" with the ad's seeming advocacy of "moderate drinking." "When I first associated myself with it," Presbry said, "I was led to believe that it was a temperance organization but in their advertisements they merely said 'don't drink to excess.'" By the time Presbry's resignation was made public, on 24 January 1936, the Council had virtually folded up shop. Colby lamely countered that no other Advisory Board resignations had been tendered, but that the organization had finally been closed for lack of funds.
Indeed, hardly any money had come in. On 29 November 1935--exactly a year after Colby's first letter of request to Rockefeller--Council fundraiser Charles Bauer reported to Colby that the group had taken in exactly $1,735 in addition to the $10,000 provided by Rockefeller and Ford in July. This was a pittance, and though the group was less than six months into the August-to-August year of new effort planned with Rockefeller and Ford, Colby decided to give up the ship. Even he now conceded that the group could not generate self-sustaining popular support despite its various nonmonetary public relations accomplishments and successes. A fall-back plan, involving a skeleton-crew endeavor was discussed with Rockefeller at a cost of another $5,000 (Colby to Rockefeller, 27 Dec 35[b], RFA). But Colby, himself, wrote privately to his old friend that he could no longer head the group or be active in its pursuits on a day-to-day basis._____ and _____ are both on the job earning money while I am spending what should go into the family budget. This a family joke--I think a poor one--that I earned some more money staying home than I can make going to New York. So I'm going to get on the job too! And if I can't earn a living I'll eat my hat. I will remain chairman of the Council and do everything I can but some one must do the detail work. You have given me the time of my life and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Further more, it is [a] pleasure to think that while we have not done all we hoped to do we have accomplished something substantial...Rockefeller met with Foundation President Raymond Fosdick to discuss the skeleton-effort option. They concluded that the alienating character of the group's name [with respect to Dry interests] and Colby's own withdrawal from effective stewardship argued against providing further funds. "The work needs to be done," Rockefeller noted to Colby. "It would seem, however, that the experience of the past makes it quite clear that some other form of approach would offer greater prospects of a successful outcome" (Rockefeller to Colby, 3 Jan 36, p. 2, RFA). By February 1936, roughly fourteen months after Colby had first presented the group's idea to Rockefeller, the Council for Moderation quietly passed into oblivion.
What can be learned from the Council for Moderation's brief life? The CFM directly addressed the problem of establishing moderate drinking norms in the newly-Wet environment of post-Repeal America. The societal need for developing a moderationist drinking culture in the U.S. was a recurring theme in many discussions of drinking before and after Repeal. Yet Colby's group's experience suggests that a direct approach to the development of moderationist norms--that is, by making their development the manifest goal of a voluntary organization--exposed the effort to a number of grave barriers and pitfalls.
Colby's group had little in the way of normative authority with which to justify and to buttress its call for moderation. For example, Colby's various "will not" assertions in his late-September press release surely reflected the widely felt view--held by Wets, by the public, and even by Rockefeller--that Drys had for too long made a practice of overstepping their bounds and invading the private prerogatives of their less-Dry fellow citizens. Repeal had symbolically redrawn the line between personal liberty and public responsibility with respect to drinking, giving the widest possible scope to personal liberty. Colby's sensitivity to this spirit is amply reflected in several aspects of his group's history--in its gimmick of subliminal temperance messages, in Colby's own enthusiasm for the bee story's absence of "preaching or exhortation," and in the group's reluctance to define even a very liberal standard by which excessive drinking might be discerned--Colby proudly left this to the individual's discretion.
But too many such normative liberties in a group espousing a moderationist social-change agenda might make the enterprise look toothless. A premium on dispassionate and sophisticated language and style also tended to drain the group's rhetoric of whatever passion or anger potential fund-givers might feel toward excessive alcohol use. Colby worked in a very restrictive rhetorical environment where there could be no palpable villain. If and when the CFM's language grew hot, it would readily recall and suggest Dry exhortations. Even Repeal itself, it might be recalled, had been advocated not because of drinking's virtues but rather in order to put an end to prohibition's various vexations and to generate much needed tax revenues for state and federal governments. There were, in short, few readily available positive normative frameworks with which to justify or promote moderate drinking (for examples of such attempts, see Barnes, 1932; Binkley, 1932; and Whitaker, 1933).
There can be little doubt that Colby and his group were ambivalent about these limits and searched for stronger normative foundations for their efforts. For example, the September ad sought to justify moderationist drinking norms with reference to the age's "automobiles, airplanes, and mechanical devices of all kinds" which could make immoderate drinking a "public menace." The 15 October 1935 ad specifically distanced its plea from "going into the moral aspects" of drinking and alluded instead to an inevitable decrement in comportment and self-control brought about by alcohol. Here, it seems, a tacit norm of constancy in self-control was being advanced as fashionable and in tune with a wider value on moderation in all aspects of life. Here we may also see traces of a class-based rhetorical appeal. Colby's approach seems to be offering the "better" living style of intelligent, moderate, and sophisticated people over the implied declasse alternative--the "unpardonable social error" of excessive drinking in the late-September advertisement seems to tip this hand.
But the footing for even these foundations for moderation was at best shaky. Reminding the reader of the drinking-norm implications of the modern age's airplanes and automobiles was banal and patronizing. Advertising moderation's au courant standing in polite society was unlikely to draw much support from interested Drys, not to mention this assertion's lack of agreement with what was in fact a rather wet period in U.S. middle-class drinking norms and practices.
This lack of normative foundations in turn led to a failure to define moderate drinking in any satisfactory way. The 15 October 1935 advertisement's rejection of "drunkenness" and "overindulgence" simply reasserted a norm already in place (one could even be jailed for violating it). The same ad's opprobrium for "tell-tale flaw[s]" in a drinker's "bearing, speech, or deportment" drew in the normative boundary much more tightly, of course, perhaps even suggesting the awkward inference that any consequence of drinking "shouts to the world that some measure of...self-control is lost." Even in the animated movie about the misguided hero bee, there seems no means for defining what might be regarded as appropriatedrinking behavior for the story's main character.
Colby attempted to walk a fine line of Dry/Wet compromise by distinguishing between the support or approval of moderate drinking (which the CFM did not offer) and the duty to confine drinking--if one elected to drink--within moderate bounds (which it did promote). In this way Colby might distance himself from the Dry charge that the CFM favored drinking because it favored moderate drinking. But Colby's efforts in this regard often fell on deaf ears. Though Wets might see a temperance message in Colby's verbal strategy, Drys simply could not distinguish between a pro-moderation message and a pro-drinking message--as evidenced in Presbry's angry resignation. In short, to Colby's Dry audience there simply was not, and (for the time being at least) could not be, any middle ground between drinking and abstinence--any more than "moderate unchastity" might be offered to a chastity supporter or "moderate" criminality to a law-and-order supporter (see Drummond, 1936, p.69--who objected to Colby's approach in just these terms). Drys correctly sensed that Colby's re-drawn divide between acceptable and unacceptable alcohol use constituted a strategic defeat and unavoidably if tacitly affirmed the moral neutrality of moderate drinking.
Drys might find some solace and utility in Colby's moderationism as a vehicle for re-opening a societal debate over alcohol--but such use was limited by his particular subliminal approach and his apparent support for moderate drinking. If alcohol was inherently a poison, an intoxicant, and an addictive agent, the Dry perspective saw no reason to support Colby's call for moderation in drinking. Perhaps the best match with Dry sentiment was the CFM's educational or propagandistic focus on the bad consequences of excessive drinking--drunk driving, industrial accidents, and even the drink-induced faltering of the hero bee in Colby's animated movie. Because these focused on the perils of excessive drinking rather than the moral duty of moderation, public information productions with such themes could often be viewed with satisfaction by Drys. Like Colby's bee movie, such productions might make no mention of moderate drinking at all. But if Colby's media messages drifted toward complying with Dry sensibilities too fully they would risk becoming indistinguishable from them and thus ultimately alienate Wet sentiment.
Colby drew support or offers of support from the alcoholic beverage industry and from Rockefeller and Ford. Beverage industry money, we saw, was declined. Ironically, Colby tried to tap the latent energy in Dry angst and turn it into financial support, while at the same time keeping Wets at bay by acknowledging and paying heed to the legitimacy of drinking in post-Repeal society. But Drys balked, and Colby could not risk using--far less cultivating--Wet sources of support. So steeped in the Dry/Wet struggle was the post-Repeal period that Colby's new initiatives could not risk the stigmatization and discredit that would surely come from taking money "from the industry." Dry attacks on the alcohol industry (if not alcohol itself) had been too successful and had survived Repeal as a fixture in the public mind.
Rockefeller's interests in the CFM, we have seen, were preoccupied with the maintenance of previously institution alized procedural protections against charges of bias, manipulativeness, and self-interested social engineering. These nonsubstantive concerns had a strong influence on the Colby group's activities and orientations. The CFM's premium on a small-scale demonstration project, its (partly disingenuous) distancing gestures from Rockefeller support, its rejection of political or legislative ends, its persistent efforts to garner and report non-Rockefeller funding sources, and even the mysterious homage to research offered at the demonstration dinner--all bespeak the shaping of the group's endeavors to fit Rockefeller's expectations.
Colby's Council for Moderation looked toward Drys for support (rejecting Wet support) but offered a message Drys abhorred. Colby could not make the group's message more appealing to Drys, moreover, without abandoning his vision of the country's post-Repeal, normative evolution toward moderation. Moreover, hardly a policy position could be articulated that would not potentially offend either Drys or Wets. Therefore, Colby's group often hid or obscured precisely what was being asserted. They seemingly needed to discover a position from which it was possible to assert nearly nothing substantial with regard to drinking but nevertheless garner enthusiastic and willing support from the public. Such a position, however, they never discovered. Morever, they never arrived at a position from which Wet support could be safely and legitimately accepted, much less encouraged. These innovations would have to await the genius of an upcoming group of alcohol-related advocates--marching under the banner of science and treatment and defining their efforts not in terms of the promotion of moderation in drinking but rather in terms of an attack on alcoholism.
1 Colby's was not the only public voice calling for the development of moderationist norms. See for example, Barnes' (1932) argument on behalf of "civilized" or "aesthetic" drinking, Binkley's (1930) early statement of a "responsible" drinking code, and Whitaker's (1933) call for "polite" drinking; also see Brock (1934).
2 There were no doubt others. Gordon (1943, p. 275), for example, relates that Committee of Fifty author John Koren approached Rockefeller for support for an alcohol research organization. Gordon also tells the story of a formal petition proffered to the Rockefeller Foundation by "one hundred twenty-five leading figures in Continental medicine" to establish an Institute for Alcohol Research. Both requests appear to have occurred about 1932-1933 though Gordon's text, unfortunately, does not specifically date them.